Microsoft has made most of its emoji library open source. Since the company can’t resist a rebrand, it refreshed its emoji library last year and has now entrusted most Figma and GitHub results. In total, there are over 1,500 (1,538 to be precise) options for users to express themselves.
In a blog post, Jon Friedman, corporate vice president for design and research at Microsoft, announced the decision.
Each open-source emoji has three iterations: the fully 3D version, complete with texture and color gradients; a flat “color” version that retains the base color but removes textures and gradients (these are the ones you’ll see if you open the Windows 11 emoji menu); and a monochromatic “high contrast” version. All emoji are made available as .svg vector graphics files so they can be resized and otherwise manipulated without any loss of quality.
There are only a few designs from Microsoft that aren’t available in open source, one of which is the paper clip that looks like Clippy (the character is apparently copyrighted). A few other emoji have been excluded because Microsoft’s releases exclude the Windows logo. The same goes for country flags, emojis of video games and technologists.
I don’t want to sugarcoat it, so let’s start with the bad news: Clippy is not included in the open source emoji set 😩. I know, and I personally would like to, but because of legalese, we can’t open trademarks. For the same reason, our country flags, video games and tech emoji will also not be available.
However, there is a range on offer, with some featuring a variety of skin tones to promote inclusion while others are there to express emotion, pure and simple. However, as a recent report from Slack and Duolingo demonstrated, be careful how you use them. It may not mean what you think it means.
In total, Microsoft spent over a year ensuring its emoji could be used in just about any format, be it SVG, PNG or JPG. A vector, flat, monochrome version of each has been created.
It’s perhaps a shame that the country flags were omitted or that Microsoft didn’t replace its trademark Clippy with something a bit more generic, but the library is otherwise extensive.
Jon Friedman extolled the virtues of the open source approach and noted that business processes evolved like the firm, hierarchical standards that once defined product development. This is what makes the open source UX culture so interesting and so aligns with our own design philosophy of open source design, he continued.
I have seen with my own eyes how this has transformed our culture and our products.
Not all. While Microsoft’s sharing of over 1,500 Fluent emojis is one thing, we can only hope it might consider taking similar action with some of its other products which would most certainly benefit from a change in philosophy from design . But as Friedman observed of Microsoft’s trade secrets: “We can’t get the lawyers out of the business altogether.” It is therefore unlikely to see the situation evolve in this way.
Sources: Microsoft, GitHub
Do you ever use emoji in your chats? what frequency?
What do you think of Microsoft’s choice to publish these emoji in open source?
An illustration of Microsoft’s interest in open source? To what extent?